A solid contribution to LGBTQ history—and that of civil rights generally.

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An account of the decadeslong struggle for civil rights for gay people, a story that begins at the height of the Cold War.

“After World War II,” writes historian Cervini, “homosexual arrests…occurred at the rate of one every ten minutes….In sum, one million citizens found themselves persecuted by the American state for sexual deviation.” One was Franklin Edward Kameny, a budding astronomer pressed into Army service in 1943, who, come peacetime, fell in love with another man. Arrested for “lewd conduct,” he was dismissed from his civilian post with the Army Map Service in 1957. It took him years to find regular employment, time in which he advocated for gay civil rights, speaking before audiences as a member of the Mattachine Society. None other than J. Edgar Hoover took a personal role in suppressing Kameny, among many others; meanwhile, Kameny organized demonstrations against the State Department, which, according to Secretary Dean Rusk, did not “employ homosexuals knowingly, and…if we discover homosexuals in our department, we discharge them.” It would take many years—in fact, into the presidency of Barack Obama—before some of the goals Kameny advocated for were reached. Cervini is wide-ranging in his coverage of such topics as the medical classification of homosexuality as deviance and the government’s justification for not hiring gay workers for fear that they would be security risks. In the latter case, just before World War I, a gay Austro-Hungarian officer sold military secrets to the Russians, and when CIA Director Allen Dulles went to work at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, he found “everyone still whispering about the homosexual spy who had lost the First World War for the empire.” While insightful on such big-picture issues, the author also focuses on individuals who made their identities known in order to protest such misguided policies.

A solid contribution to LGBTQ history—and that of civil rights generally. (23 b/w illustrations)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-13979-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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